Do you care if Your WC isn't "Authentic"?

geezer

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I was talking with some friends in my Eskrima class. Several of also have had experience in WC/WT, but from different lineages. We often note how what we learned differs in various ways. One guy does a long pole form that is totally different than the one I learned. So somebody is not learning the authentic stuff. Funny thing is, there was a time when that would have really started an argument. Nowdays, neither of us cares much about "authenticity". We do spend a lot of time sharing and exploring "practicality". Now that's something that matters.

How about you guys? What if you found out that some of your technique wasn't as authentic as you thought it was?
 

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I would be disappointed that I had been fooled but if I was enjoying what I was studying I might still continue then again I might leave if I thought it all was made up or taken off the web
 

El_Nastro

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How do you define "authentic"?

There's a couple ways you could define it, depending on your criteria and on who you ask.

It's fair to say that "authenticity"="effective", and under this definition lineage is neither here nor there. If the technique/art/system helps you win fights, then it's authentic.

To some people, "authentic" means "part of a time-tested tradition going back several generations". Nowadays it seems fashionable to deny the value of this definition of authenticity under the notion that just because something's old, it's not necessarily effective or useful.

In Wing Chun, "authenticity" seems to equal "lineage". People tend to get too hung up on lineage, and it' usually for silly reasons. Lineage arguments commonly sound like "my dad can beat up your dad!", and because that attitude is sooooooo lame, it can have a sort of backlash-effect on the rest of us so that even to hear the word "lineage" is to become irritated. Because of this backlash-effect, it's becoming more common for people to say stuff like: "lineage doesn't matter at all", and "there's really no such thing as 'authenticity' anyway."

I think there is a value to lineage, and I think it does, to an extent, equate to "authenticity". Here's why....

In the world of martial arts, there's a lot of whackos, liars, and cons. How do I know, as a total martial-arts-virgin, that when I walk into a school, the instructor didn't just make up a bunch of crap that'll get me killed if I need to use it? At least in theory, lineage provides a means to check someone's credentials, ie their authenticity. It's like citing your sources in a research paper.

If an instructor is part of an old, time-tested tradition that spans the generations, then it's more likely you'll learn better stuff - a multi-generational system (hopefully) represents the accumulated experience and contributions of several lifetimes worth of experience, trial-and-error learning, and refinement.

It's no guarantee you'll learn better stuff through an "authentic" system, but I figure the odds are slightly better the instructor will simply know more if they're part of an authentic tradition.
 
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Flying Crane

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There's a couple ways you could define it, depending on your criteria and on who you ask.

It's fair to say that "authenticity"="effective", and under this definition lineage is neither here nor there. If the technique/art/system helps you win fights, then it's authentic.

To some people, "authentic" means "part of a time-tested tradition going back several generations". Nowadays it seems fashionable to deny the value of this definition of authenticity under the notion that just because something's old, it's not necessarily effective or useful.

In Wing Chun, "authenticity" seems to equal "lineage". People tend to get too hung up on lineage, and it' usually for silly reasons. Lineage arguments commonly sound like "my dad can beat up your dad!", and because that attitude is sooooooo lame, it can have a sort of backlash-effect on the rest of us so that even to hear the word "lineage" is to become irritated. Because of this backlash-effect, it's becoming more common for people to say stuff like: "lineage doesn't matter at all", and "there's really no such thing as 'authenticity' anyway."

I think there is a value to lineage, and I think it does, to an extent, equate to "authenticity". Here's why....

In the world of martial arts, there's a lot of whackos, liars, and cons. How do I know, as a total martial-arts-virgin, that when I walk into a school, the instructor didn't just make up a bunch of crap that'll get me killed if I need to use it? At least in theory, lineage provides a means to check someone's credentials, ie their authenticity. It's like citing your sources in a research paper.

If an instructor is part of an old, time-tested tradition that spans the generations, then it's more likely you'll learn better stuff - a multi-generational system (hopefully) represents the accumulated experience and contributions of several lifetimes worth of experience, trial-and-error learning, and refinement.

It's no guarantee you'll learn better stuff through an "authentic" system, but I figure the odds are slightly better the instructor will simply know more if they're part of an authentic tradition.

Exactly, particularly the part that I bolded.
 
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geezer

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How do you define "authentic"?

I think the standard usually implied by the term "authentic" is that it is genuine and original to the system. So for the Yip Man lineage, each form would be essentially performed as Grandmaster Yip taught it, with some minor variations. However there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that Grandmaster Yip adapted and changed his teachings throughout his lifetime. In fact, it would be very odd if he didn't... So, even by this criterion, there should be considerable variation within what you could call "authentic".

However, for me, "authenticity", in the sense of being "honest", is more important than something being merely old and unchanged over a long period of time. If an instructor openly and honestly states that he has altered parts of a form, that's fine. His adaptations are either improvements, or they aren't, but there is no deception involved. On the other hand, if an instructor simply throws together a phony set of movements adapted from other systems, and falsely claims that his is the only "true and original" version, then, yes I have a problem with that.

In Wing Chun, the amount of variation between the forms increases as one moves to the higher level forms such as the dummy and weapons sets. In many cases, the variants may be equally "authentic", but often I believe it's the case that some Sifus haven't been taught the whole system. Rather than admit the fact, they borrow or concoct something and pass it off as the real thing. Personally, I feel better off training with people who are straight up with me. Of course, how do you ever really know? Well, if your instructor or system's headman is upfront and says that he changed this or that group of movements for such and such a reason...then, there you have it.
 

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As far as i know my Sifu added a low side kick , a medium side kick and a charging side kick i think he got them from Choy Lay Fut because he studied that art before learning Wing Chun when he was about 14 .

The reason was because junior students would find it easier to throw out a side kick than to try and do the turning thrust kick from chum kiu , that kick is very difficult to do properly .

The way the kicks are executed still follow all the principles of directness , economy of movement etc and are very practical in my opinion .
 

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Yes I do,I've seen plenty of slop,bad moves and bad teaching,milking people,people spending a good amount of money for a seminar just to be shoved into a corner with a couple of techniques for the duration whilst the higher end get the goods....yes I do judge by the quality of instruction.When I trained under (then) DeiSihing Steve Brandon he made sure that everyone got a fair shake and did not promote sloppy technique or bad footwork. ....proper placement, proper execution...solid grounding.Fast forward.........Sifu Emin Boztepe,multi-faceted well rounded instruction,he covered footwork,groundfighting,clenches,hands on combat.Authentic like sticking to the core principles.....I like.
 

UrBaN

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All 1st generation students of Yip Man, are actually practicing the same thing, only their expression of the art is different. In a fight, they all apply the same principles.
Yip Man's teaching, was highly individualized, as it should be. Hence, everybody's expression of the system was according to their body and mind limitations.

The only difference is the training method. Every teacher has his own methods, which is logical.
Find out, which method suits you the best and then practice hard and honest.

So, authenticity is relevant. If you study Wing Chun in depth and have an open mind, then it's quite obvious that they are all the same when fighting.
And if it works for you, then you don't really care about "authentic".

The goal is to own the system and not let the system own you.
This is the main objective of the system. To get out of the box and not be restricted by it. Wing Chun actually incorporated the JKD concept, before it even existed.
 
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geezer

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...Sifu Emin Boztepe,multi-faceted well rounded instruction,he covered footwork,groundfighting,clenches,hands on combat.Authentic like sticking to the core principles.....I like.

Sifu Emin is a good example of someone who is up-front about modifying the system, even within his WT lineage coming from GM Leung Ting and Master Kernspecht. The last time I saw him at a seminar a year and a half back, he was openly discussing certain modifications that he made to make the system meore effective for fighting. Then there are his contributions to the "anti-grappling" material. A lot of it is extrapolated from stuff that was already there, but he has moved it way beyond what you would find in the old stuff of GGM Yip Man's time. Is it authentic? If your main criterion is that it has to be just the pure old Chinese stuff, then the answer is no. But if your criteria are that it should be true to the principles of the art, be practical and effective, then I'd say yes. And definately worth looking at, regardless of your lineage.

Another interesting thing about Sifu Emin... Now I may be wrong about this, but I've heard from numerous sources that he is not particularly well versed in some of the advanced movement sets of his WT lineage, namely the wooden dummy form and the weapons sets. On the other hand, he is about as good at applying this material in a fight as anyone you are likely to encounter. I don't mean this to knock him. As I recall, Bruce Lee wasn't a big fan of forms either. But if you were a purist who wanted to learn these forms for the sake of tradition and the refinements they contain, Emin would not be your ideal choice. His authenticity is that he can walk the walk.

On the other hand, if I were looking for the the original forms, I'd probably go to Master Kernspecht, or in this country to Master Jeff Webb. And if I had a lot of cash I really wanted to get rid of for a minimal return, I'd contact Leung Ting. Or maybe I'd save the money and just beat my had against the wall.
 

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Just a thought on Authenticity. I began my training in Wing Chun style A, later due to circumstances my next Sifu was from Wing Chun family B, then years later under my current Sifu I've learned both Wing Chun family style C and D. Now bare with me on this. If I were to teach a seminar representing Wing Chun family A but teaching techniques from Wing Chun family C, then I would consider this an inacurate representation under that guise, and not an authentic representation of family A. However authentic the techniques might be to family C, it is inacurate and not authentic for family A. Now if I teach a seminar representing family A, and teach techniques from family A, this is still authentic for that family. If someone else teaches a seminar to those same people but represents family B,C,D or anything else, just because it's different from family A does not negate it's authenticity to that respective family. Keep in mind that just because it might be different than what you've been taught, does not make it "not authentic", it just might be that it is not authentic to your family/lineage. Keep an open mind that even if you disagree with it's methodoligy, does not negate it's authenticity.
 
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geezer

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Just a thought on Authenticity...

... just because it's different from family A does not negate it's authenticity to that respective family. Keep in mind that just because it might be different than what you've been taught, does not make it "not authentic", it just might be that it is not authentic to your family/lineage. .

Sure. Different variations that accurately represent different lineages could be equally "authentic" if they haven't just been made up or borrowed from elsewhere.

But what about this situation... you show a video of a certain sifu's "authentic" Yip Man lineage long pole form to two elder Chinese sifu's of two separate branches of the Yip Man lineage. One laughs and says, "That is not Grandmaster Yip's Luk dim boon kwun fa. That is a Pak-Mei pole form! The other sifu, from a different Yip Man WC branch, laughs in agreement saying, "Yes, that form was well known in Hong Kong. It is nothing like ours!"

Now, would you say that the sifu who falsely represents the Pak-Mei pole form as coming from Grandmaster Yip is still teaching an "authentic" version just because he, or perhaps his sifu didn't learn the original, and substituted this version in their branch of WC? I wouldn't!

FYI (in case you haven't already guessed) this is a true story!
 

KamonGuy2

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Going back to William Cheung bashing, his instructors are brainwashed into believing that there style is authentic (ie true wing chun) whereas everyone elses is modified

For me, wing chun is a set of principles and ideas

There may be 'new moves' created all the time and if they follow wing chun ideas (centre line, economy of motion etc) then that is all cool in my book

When styles are created, they are created inadequately. People don't invent anything that is perfect. Even things as simple as the pencil are always researched and improved upon.

Traditional arts like karate tend to modify the style (I expect when it was first created there was no point scoring tournaments...)

People fixate on the idea of having a pure or authentic style and as long as it works and works well, who cares???
 
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geezer

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For me, wing chun is a set of principles and ideas

There may be 'new moves' created all the time and if they follow wing chun ideas (centre line, economy of motion etc) then that is all cool in my book...

People fixate on the idea of having a pure or authentic style and as long as it works and works well, who cares???

Using this logic, If you modify and adapt your WC according to the principles, it's legitimate. And if your modifications improve the system, that's good. I agree. Good and legit are way better than somebody's opinion of "authentic" or "original". I just think instructors should be honest and up-front about the changes they make.

So, for example, if the sifu teaching the pak-mei pole set had just said, "We use a pole form adapted from pak-mei, because..." then that's his business. And maybe it's a really good form.

Another example: My old sifu has never been accused of being an exemplary businessman, but he did actually (!) give credit when he made some modifications to the forms. In the late '80s, he was one of the first to go back to Fatshan (Fo'shan) and research some of the surviving mainland WC branches. On the basis of his inquiries he "restored" some movements that had been dropped. Interestingly, we now even (unofficially) refer to one movement as the "Pan Nam hand". My point? Give credit where credit is due.
 

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I think the standard usually implied by the term "authentic" is that it is genuine and original to the system. So for the Yip Man lineage, each form would be essentially performed as Grandmaster Yip taught it, with some minor variations.

Well, maybe it's arbitrary to stop with Yip Man. One could go back beyond Yip Man and try to establish authenticity to an even older source. Or a more recent source for that matter. So why does it need to be one source, vs. another?

However there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that Grandmaster Yip adapted and changed his teachings throughout his lifetime. In fact, it would be very odd if he didn't... So, even by this criterion, there should be considerable variation within what you could call "authentic".

I would certainly think so as well. It would be very surprising if how he trained and what he taught remained the exact same throughout his lifetime.

However, for me, "authenticity", in the sense of being "honest", is more important than something being merely old and unchanged over a long period of time. If an instructor openly and honestly states that he has altered parts of a form, that's fine. His adaptations are either improvements, or they aren't, but there is no deception involved.

Is it dishonest to change something? Some people aren't very good and shouldn't change things. But many people are good enough, and what is the problem if they change things in a way that they feel is an improvement? the arts do change from generation to generation, and frequently. I think it is inherent in the arts.

On the other hand, if an instructor simply throws together a phony set of movements adapted from other systems, and falsely claims that his is the only "true and original" version, then, yes I have a problem with that.

Does this ever actually happen? The arts are often influenced by one's experience with other arts, and that is to be expected. Really, there is no such thing as a "pure" art. But have you ever actually heard of someone doing this? Throwing together a bunch of phony stuff? I hear this claim made sometimes, but I think it's really kind of far-fetched. Let me know if you have actually heard of a concrete example.

I think you can only make a claim that something is authentic in how it was taught to you by your teacher. Beyond that, there is a lot of room for differences, while still being authentic.
 
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geezer

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...But have you ever actually heard of someone doing this? Throwing together a bunch of phony stuff? I hear this claim made sometimes, but I think it's really kind of far-fetched. Let me know if you have actually heard of a concrete example.

Have I heard of people concocting movements and forms to cover up gaps in their training? Sure. I've seen it too! Check out my previous post (#14) on the pak-mei pole set being sold as a Wing Chun long pole form.

I've seen similar deceptions with the dummy form. Now, of course there are many versions of the dummy set, and many ways to train it. But I'm talking about people who I personally know weren't taught the whole thing cobbling together movements learned from various sources and books, and then charging a lot to teach this stuff to unsuspecting students.

It would be the same as if someone had a bit of Chen style taijiquan training and then pieced together a form including Yang style and so forth, and then marketed it as an authentic Chen style form. This kind of deception happens all the time in the martial arts. I know this happens, because I began my training over 30 years back in a "Shaolin" system that I now know was probably invented in Hawaii!
 

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It would be the same as if someone had a bit of Chen style taijiquan training and then pieced together a form including Yang style and so forth, and then marketed it as an authentic Chen style form.

BLASPHEMER!!!! :D

I trained only a little Wing Chun and it was authentic, or as authentic as it can be as it comes from Ip Ching.

If I were training what I was lead to believe was Wing Chun and I found that it was a combination of say Wing Chun and Judo and I wanted authentic Wing Chun I would be a bit peeved. If I liked it and the label of Wing Chun didn't matter I would not care.

However I tend towards tradition and I personally would be rather upset if I came across a Sifu claiming to teach Wing Chun that was in reality teaching Wing Chundo and calling it Wing Chun. Much the same as if I found any taiji teacher that did something similar. If someone is teaching a system that is a combination of other arts or an incomplete version of an art with added patches I have no problem with that at all. It is when they do that and still insist on calling it something it is not that I have a problem with.
 

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Have I heard of people concocting movements and forms to cover up gaps in their training? Sure. I've seen it too! Check out my previous post (#14) on the pak-mei pole set being sold as a Wing Chun long pole form.

ah, well, something borrowed from elsewhere isn't phony, it's just borrowed. Personally, I believe in truth in advertising, so if something is borrowed, it ought to be acknowledged as such. But it may be just as good or even better than the original material from the system.

I've seen similar deceptions with the dummy form. Now, of course there are many versions of the dummy set, and many ways to train it. But I'm talking about people who I personally know weren't taught the whole thing cobbling together movements learned from various sources and books, and then charging a lot to teach this stuff to unsuspecting students.

other systems like Choy Lay Fut also use the dummy, altho I believe the differences don't stop with the techniques, but the dummy itself is also different. Again, this would be borrowed, not phony.

If someone tried to learn it from a book or video, then it is poorly learned, or borrowed, or both. I would agree, probably not what that person ought to be teaching, much less charging lots of money to teach. That would be rather deceptive.

I guess maybe I'm fixating on you choice of words with "phony". That conjures up an image of some guy sitting in his basement, just making stuff up off the top of his head with no basis of knowledge on which to place it, and no ability to put it into use. That to me, is phony.

But a sifu with a good background of training and knowlege may create his own drills, or make his own modifications to forms, or even create his own forms to augment what he learned from his sifu. As long as this person is skilled and knowledgeable to begin with, before he makes these changes and additions, I don't see that as phony. I just see that as innovative. Maybe I would like his innovations, maybe not. But I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with this. Obviously not every schmoe should be trying to do this, but there are teachers who I think can do this and produce good results for his students, and it is probably more common that we may realize.

Remember: all of this stuff was just created by people, not by gods. None of it is sacred and unchangeable. Other people can and do come along later and make changes. Some are for the better, others for the worse, still others may have little or no effect. But it happens. At what point does it become in-authentic? At what point has it changed so much that it is truly a different method? I don't know, but I think every sifu has his own flavor of his art. And it is all authentic, altho it could be "wing chun with some changes I made", or "wing chun with a bak mei influence", or even "wing chun, but I also teach some bak mei forms", for example.

It would be the same as if someone had a bit of Chen style taijiquan training and then pieced together a form including Yang style and so forth, and then marketed it as an authentic Chen style form. This kind of deception happens all the time in the martial arts. I know this happens, because I began my training over 30 years back in a "Shaolin" system that I now know was probably invented in Hawaii!

Again, I think this comes back to truth in advertising. The Shaolin reference is a big one. I know that some kenpo systems like to insert Shaolin into their name, but I believe it would be shaky at best if you tried to trace an actual lineage to shaolin. I think that's deceptive advertising. But parhaps their material came from somewhere, and in it's own way it's still authentic SOMETHING, just not shaolin. Whether it's poorly or skillfully done is another matter altogether. But in the end, it's all made up by people.
 

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Geezer,
Good point and I agree. In my previous example of the A, B, C & D lineages, as long as each respective teacher represented what he was teaching accurately then it's cool. When one falsely represents then they cross the line and it is no longer authentic. I know I've seen Sigung Chong teach the standard Yip Man pole set (Leung Sheung family) on video, not in person mind you and represent it for what it was and it was the same as pretty much all the other Yip Man/Hong Kong set's I've seen elsewhere. As well also teach Pan Nam's pole set but represent it for what it was. The Pan Nam system actually has both the standard 6.5/Yip Man pole set and his pole set, just an fyi. I've always been a very curious person (translate=nosey, hehe) so I'd love to know who your example is referring to.
 
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geezer

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...The Pan Nam system actually has both the standard 6.5/Yip Man pole set and his pole set, just an fyi. I've always been a very curious person (translate=nosey, hehe) so I'd love to know who your example is referring to.

I'll be honest and admit that this was so long ago (late 80's?, early '90's?) that I don't remember. But I can ask around. I know some other folks with less ...er "senior"... memories.

Anyway, now I really want to look at that Eddie (?) Chong video and see how what I learned compares. I would also love to see the other Pan Nam version. Although, in truth, its hard (for me,at least) to understand the meaning of variations in a form outside of the context of application. Many times a movement looks totally screwy and then, when you understand its application, it makes a lot of sense.
 
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